McLellan Revisits the Marginalization of Borneo Indigenous Languages

Institute of Asian Studies (IAS) Research Associate Dr. James McLellan presented a talk on 13 September 2018 on “Marginalization of Language Revisited: What has changed for Iban, and for other Borneo indigenous languages, since 1992?” as part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Seminar Series.

The abstract from Dr. McLellan’s talk is as follows:

This presentation revisits the arguments advanced in an important paper presented by Ariffin Omar and Teoh Boon Seong at the 2nd Borneo Research Council Conference, held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in 1992. Entitled ‘Marginalization of language: The case of Iban in Sarawak’, it was subsequently published in 1994 (in Martin, P.W., Ed., Shifting Patterns of Language Use in Borneo).

This presentation covers the major themes of Ariffin and Teoh’s paper, asking what has happened to Borneo indigenous languages in the intervening 26 years, and whether they are now more or less marginalized. This is addressed in terms of their sociolinguistic domains of use, especially education but also within home and family, commerce, and the Internet and social media – new domains which hardly existed in the early 1990s.

Significant developments include: the maintenance of Iban as a subject and as a medium in the mainstream Malaysian education system; the research and publication efforts, especially lexicographic, of the Tun Jugah Foundation; and the development of programmes in and on Iban at universities both in Borneo and at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjong Malim, Perak, West Malaysia. There is also evidence of language maintenance among Iban children in Temburong and Belait Districts in Brunei, from observations and interview data obtained from members of the Iban community in the Belait District.

The Presentation also offers a brief overview of some other Borneo languages in terms of their level of marginalization: whether this persists, or whether there have been positive moves to combat marginalization.

Dr. McLellan has graciously made a draft version of his paper available (here). If you wish to consult with the author regarding this paper or any other matters, his contact information can be found in his bio on the IAS website.

Here are some images from the event:

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